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Countywide jail diversion center opening its doors

Doug Ramsay photo

Michael Konieczki (far right), a manager with the nonprofit Pioneer Human Services, shows one of the dorm rooms to state and county officials during a tour of the new jail diversion facility in Everett on Tuesday, May 1. Pioneer will operate the county-funded center.

EVERETT — A group of county and area dignitaries were on hand for an open house Tuesday, May 1 to tour the new Snohomish County Diversion Center, which will open as early as this week.
The center, located at 1918 Wall Street (corner of Wall Street and Lombard Avenue), will provide temporary housing and help for up to 44 men and women identified by the county’s law enforcement and embedded social worker teams as being homeless and having “complex
needs related to addiction and untreated mental illness” conditions which prevent them from successfully getting treatment and using social services, according to a fact sheet provided at the open house. 
The light, airy, no-frills center fills the space  of the former work release facility on the Snohomish County campus, beneath the jail. The work release program ceased in December 2016 because of budget cuts.
 “Now, when someone says they’re ready (for help), we have a place to take them,” said Anji Jorstad, a Snohomish County Human Services Behavioral Health supervisor.
Jorstad said all five embedded social workers who work for the county will be able to refer people to the center.
 The people would voluntarily stay for up to 15 days while work is done to guide them to stable and more permanent help.
Men and women will be housed on different floors and have 24/7 supervision, according to program managers with Pioneer Human Services, which will operate the facility.
Program participants receive a medical and behavioral health screening when they arrive and medical monitoring throughout their stay.  An emergency medical technician (EMT) will be on staff, as well as several resident monitors and case managers.
“The space is awesome,” said Michael Konieczki, one of the Pioneer managers who conducted a tour of the facility.  Konieczki explained that incoming residents will get a new sweat suit, light-weight shoes, a bed and locker. Personal clothing must be shed at the time of entry and purified in a “bed bug oven” that resembles a square black tent.  Residents then will have access to laundry facilities.
Although meals won’t be prepared on-site — they will be provided and delivered by the jail system — a bright new kitchen with round tables and some appliances is available for breaks and snacks. Men and women may take meals together.
Donovan Brown, the senior program manager for the diversion center,  said they tried to make the center “as homey and welcoming as possible.”
A physician will be on-call to meet with residents Monday through Friday.  This is not a detox facility, Konieczki said, but some medication may be administered to keep patients comfortable.
The diversion center is through a pilot program supported by Gov. Jay Inslee and the state Legislature. It is designed to “divert non-violent, low-level offenders with behavioral health and substance abuse issues away from incarceration and into treatment/recovery,” according to the fact sheet. 
Prospective residents, who participate voluntarily, are assigned a case manager to help them enroll in treatment options, “including medication assisted treatment, inpatient residential treatment and/or other social services to address individual needs.”
It will cost the county $1.5 million annually to operate it.
 At the tour May 1, County Executive Dave Somers welcomed and thanked legislators from both political parties, law enforcement representatives, and the human services specialists who worked together to make the diversion center a reality. “Projects like this are the result of collaboration … We’re very excited about it.”


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